With Michael Bourn set to test the free-agent market, the Atlanta Braves have a tough decision on their hands.
Do they attempt to re-sign Bourn? Or should they let him walk and concentrate on the other more modestly priced free-agent center fielders?
Bourn's 2012 salary was $6,845,000. On the open market, especially with Scott Boras as his agent, he can yield anywhere from $10 million to $15 million, depending on contract length, the aggressiveness of the market and where Bourn prefers to play for the next four to seven years.
The Braves also have to replace Chipper Jones in 2013 by either bringing in a third baseman or left fielder.
Martin Prado is capable of playing either, so he will play wherever the Braves think he will make the team better depending on who they bring in.
If Bourn decides to take someone else's money and run, the Braves will need to bring in a quality center fielder who is capable of playing in the spacious outfield of Turner Field.
One name that comes to mind is Shane Victorino. After being shipped to Los Angeles in July, Victorino probably thought that he would have a chance to re-sign with the Dodgers.
Those ideas were then eradicated when the Dodgers pulled off a mega-deal which brought Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to L.A.
With Matt Kemp manning center, Andre Either in right and the newly acquired Crawford in left, Victorino was left out in the cold, thus making him available for 2013.
Should the Braves pursue Victorino if Bourn signs elsewhere?
Carefully, but also diligently.
Victorino is coming off of a disappointing 2012 in regards to his offensive production, but he is still one of the top defenders in all of Major League Baseball.
In comparison to Bourn, Victorino can do a lot of the same things for what will most likely be a fraction of the cost.
In 2012, Victorino hit .255 with 11 home runs, 55 RBI, 72 runs scored, 29 doubles, 53 walks, 39 stolen bases and career-low .704 OPS.
Bourn hit .274 with nine home runs, 57 RBI, 96 runs scored, 26 doubles, 70 walks, 42 stolen bases and a .730 OPS.
The numbers are strikingly similar, and this was considered a down year for Victorino.
If the Braves end up signing Victorino, it could help them afford another quality free-agent signing. Or maybe even help sign Brian McCann to an extension.
Money is a key issue going into free agency, and the Braves may want to consider taking a short-term risk on Victorino rather than over paying on a long-term deal with Bourn.
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